EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the last in a series of stories covering contested seats leading up to Saturday's primary and first special election. The general election will be on Nov. 4.
For more details on candidates and their comments on key issues, go online to www.mauinews.com and click on state or county candidates under "Election 2008."
Lahaina Realtor and business consultant Bart Mulvihill is not impressed with Roz Baker's 16 years of experience in the state Legislature or her position as chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
The veteran lawmaker, who faces Mulvihill Saturday in the Democratic primary race for the 5th Senate District seat, said her opponent "clearly shows a lack of understanding" of the role of the Legislature and the executive branch.
The winner of the Democratic primary contest goes on to face Republican Jan Shields on Nov. 4.
Mulvihill said Baker has not been an effective advocate for her West and South Maui constituents, and the amount of clout attributed to her being chairwoman of the "powerful" committee is exaggerated.
5TH SENATE DISTRICT
(West and South Maui)
* PARTY: Democrat
* BORN: Sept. 20, 1946; El Campo, Texas
* RESIDENCE: Lahaina
* OCCUPATION: Legislator
* EDUCATION: El Campo High School (Texas), Southwest Texas State University (now known as Texas State University at San Marcos), University of Southwestern Louisiana (now known as University of Louisiana, Lafayette)
* FAMILY: Single
* PARTY: Democrat
* BORN: June 21, 1960; Hollywood, Calif.
* RESIDENCE: Lahaina
* OCCUPATION: Realtor, business consultant
* EDUCATION: Seabury Hall graduate, attended Maui Community College
* FAMILY: Single, two children
District residents would not lose influence in the Legislature if she were unseated, he said. "It sounds like we're taking the uniform off Superman."
Ask any state legislator, Baker said, and he or she will tell you the three most powerful positions in the Legislature in order are the president, the vice president and the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
"The reality of the situation is that positions are important, relationships are important," Baker said.
She said that if she had not been the chairwoman of the Senate's money committee, projects such as the Kihei high school and the long-awaited Lahaina bypass would not be priority budget items.
This year, the Legislature adopted more than 60 bills that had to be approved by the Senate's Ways and Means Committee. "That's nothing to sneeze at and a freshman senator cannot do that," she said.
But Mulvihill said important projects, such as a new high school in Kihei and a hospital in Lahaina, are long overdue, and he would be a more effective lawmaker and advocate for the district.
If he had been in office, Mulvihill said, he would have pushed for land negotiations to be completed for both the high school in Kihei and the hospital in Lahaina.
"I'm unrelenting. I would not give up," he said. Instead, he sees Baker making excuses.
"She always says it's not her kuleana, or 'I don't have control over it,' " Mulvihill said. "She's not a fist slammer."
Baker said she does not necessarily believe that "ranting and raving" would be effective, and her style of legislating has brought results, including this year when almiost $400 million in capital improvement projects were funded for Maui and with the 5th District being allocated approximately $100 million in capital improvement projects.
Baker said she has been behind several measures that have been laying the foundation for development of a high school in Kihei. She said she's also been active behind the scenes in supporting a private hospital for West Maui, attending fundraisers for the West Maui Improvement Foundation and lobbying the Kaanapali Development Corp. to extend its agreement to provide the foundation with property for its proposed medical facility.
Baker pointed out the state Department of Education did not list a high school for Kihei as a priority and that it took Maui leaders, including herself, to change that.
"I think it's a testament to how good of an advocate I am," Baker said.
Mulvihill said funding for the high school should have been approved 10 years ago, and the campus should already be built.
The state Department of Education announced last year that it had identified a site for the high school and would be negotiating with two private landowners to acquire the property for the campus.
Though inexperienced at the Legislature, Mulvihill said he has a wealth of expertise in finding common ground with people and believes he could get things done for his district and the rest of Maui.
Prior to running for office, Mulvihill said he has negotiated approximately $23 million in real estate deals, has published 12 magazines and has sold 2,000 cars. He's also been involved in advertising and public relations on the Mainland.
He said he has a passion for Maui, his home since the age of 13, and his place for vacation even prior to establishing himself here. "I love this island. I'm only running to protect my house," he said.
Baker said she believes she's the more qualified candidate because of her experience and knowledge in the Legislature. She said she's still interested in pursuing complicated and complex issues facing the state, such as energy, traffic, education and health.
"I see my job as finding solutions and getting the job done," she said. "I'm a good listener and a creative problem solver."
Both Baker and Mulvihill express confidence in winning Saturday, with Mulvihill saying his chances are 50-50.
"A lot of people have said I'm not going to win. A lot of people have said I am. Who do you believe?" he asked.
* Claudine San Nicolas can be reached at email@example.com.
CORRECTION: This story includes a correction from the original published on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008. It contained incorrect figures for the capital improvement project amounts that Maui County received according to state Sen. Roz Baker.